//Nine-year-old boy attacked by a leopard

Nine-year-old boy attacked by a leopard

MUMBAI — A leopard from the National Park in Borivali yesterday attacked a nine-year-old boy, once again underlining the growing conflict between humans and animals on the outskirts of Mumbai.

Prathmesh Sonwadkar was attackd by a leopard near the Borivali national park early yesterday, according to the police. He was seriously injured and rushed to the Bhagwati hospital.

The leopard pounced on the boy as he had gone out of his house to fetch some water, and dragged him for a few yards. On hearing his screams, neighbours rushed out of their homes, threw stones at the animal, and drove it away.

However, the boy was seriously injured and was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital. This is the second attack by leopards in recent weeks.

The last few years have seen dozens of people being killed by leopards in the Goregaon-Borivali, and Powai-Mulund-Thane belt of Mumbai, all suburbs bordering the National Park forest. Thousands of people have encroached on forestland, as illegal slum colonies have mushroomed in these areas. Stray dogs, pigs and other domestic animals have multiplied in these colonies, attracting the leopards.

However, many of the leopards have also attacked humans, especially children, unable to find food. The Maharashtra government tried to get the slum colonies relocated, but the residents refused to move out, complaining that they are located far from their workplaces. The government then tried to relocate the leopards to reserved forests in other parts of the state. Last year, there was a sudden drop in leopard attacks, but recent weeks have seen some of the leopards venturing out to the slum colonies at night.

Environmentalists have urged the state government to build a high wall bordering the 100-sq km national forest. The state government has also allocated funds, but local politicians have been opposed to the move. Many slumlords want to ‘expand’ their empire deeper into the forest, and do not want the boundary walls to be built. Local politicians have urged the government to poison the animals instead.